Women Working in Football - Doncaster Rovers Belles Chair and Marketing Director Faye Lygo (Part One)
Whilst coverage of women’s football has increased in recent years, what often goes unnoticed are the hundreds of women who play a vital role in the day-to-day functions of professional clubs and organisations.
In a new feature series, Kick It Out has been speaking to women who work within football – in a number of roles including coaching, club executives, photographers, administrators, matchday staff and more – to celebrate and gain an insight into their contributions to the professional game.
The feature discusses their experiences of the game, how they reached where they are today and any challenges they may have faced along the way.
Ahead of a number of FA Women’s Super League (WSL) fixtures being dedicated to Kick It Out this weekend in the Spring Series, the organisation spoke to Faye Lygo, Chair and Marketing Director of Doncaster Rovers Belles.
In part one, she reflected on her decision to work in football, her role at the club and its development under her stewardship.
Faye Lygo’s route into football was far from a typical one.
A highly successful property solicitor by trade and a partner at her law firm, she was persuaded to switch careers in 2013 after The FA’s ‘Game Changer’ initiative saw Doncaster Rovers Belles demoted to WSL 2.
“Growing up my Dad was a Sunderland supporter, and as a young adult I was a Chelsea supporter with my husband. But when the Belles were relegated and there was a restructuring of the divisions, my husband got involved and they wanted more women on the board.”
Whilst Faye had no previous ties to the club, she has no question about where her loyalties now lie.
“There was a book written about 20 years ago called ‘I Lost My Heart To The Belles’ and it’s the only football book I’ve ever read, so it’s funny that now I’m working here because I, too, have lost my heart to the Belles. It went a bit full circle.”
As part of her role as Chair, Faye leads on the delivery of the board’s 10-year plan for the Belles, which has seen the club take immense strides both on and off the pitch, with promotion to the WSL 1 achieved in 2015 and plans in place to build a state-of-the-art training ground complex.
Faye gave an insight in to her day-to-day activities that have helped the club make such significant progress.
“As Chair, I deal with governance issues on the board and I’m involved with player recruitment and transfers. Because of my skillset and legal background, contractual issues come back to me. I also deal with background issues like business initiatives and I manage our relationships too, so I do a lot with The FA and Doncaster Rovers.”
“We have really good personal relationships with key people that run Rovers like the CEO. We’re not the same business but we try and work alongside each other, but we have our own training area, physio and other things. They are very supportive of what we do but in a limited way. The door is always open if we have a problem, we can get in contact and get advice.”
In addition to that busy schedule, Faye must also fulfil her duties as the club’s Marketing Director.
“Every week I have a meeting with our media executives and we plan. Sometimes I might prepare my monthly blog for example but generally it’s about agreeing on what we’re doing for the week. All credit to the team who help me, they’re the ones who actually put stuff out; I do things more on a strategic and structural level – getting people from different parts of the club to contribute.”
However, despite the progress made in developing the club’s infrastructure, the Belles endured a tough return to the top flight in 2016, suffering relegation after they finished bottom of WSL 1 with 15 defeats from 16 games.
Yet Faye remains extremely positive about the club’s future and believes the lessons have been learned from their experience back at the highest level.
“If at the beginning we’d had in place what we had at the end of the season, I think it might’ve been a different story. We had key injuries, and we understand more now how transitioning from part-time to full-time works. We tried almost too hard, too quickly.
“We contacted other clubs and did receive very useful advice, but to a large extent, there’s no one to guide you. We were trying to get full-time players and were also going to a league where the fitness level was different – there were a number of factors.”
Faye reflected on the how the development of the women’s game contributed to the Belles’ difficulties last season.
“When I first got involved in the women’s game, for various reasons including access to money, the game was a little bit simpler. Now, it’s a lot more technical, there’s a lot more thought going into it – which is coming from the men’s game and is no bad thing – but it means that suddenly it’s more commonplace in WSL 1 than WSL 2. So there is a real step up.
“Sometimes you haven’t got the right structure in place, you haven’t got enough experience, your coaches and players haven’t experienced WSL 1, whereas in the men’s game there’s a lot more movement of people and experience. You can’t tap in to that as easily in the women’s game.”
In part two, Faye reflects on the importance of building relationships with other women in football, raising the profile of the women’s game and the FA WSL’s dedicated Kick It Out weekend.